Film on lions causes uproar

2015-11-20 11:15
A still from the movie Blood Lions, a documentary which follows South African conservationist Ian Michler and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to the lion-hunting industries.

A still from the movie Blood Lions, a documentary which follows South African conservationist Ian Michler and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to the lion-hunting industries. (supplied)

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Canned lion hunting is 'damaging brand South Africa'

2015-08-25 11:23

Filmmaker Ian Michler joins us in studio. He has just released a documentary called Blood Lions, that sets out to expose the cruelties of the canned lion hunting industry in SA.WATCH

Pietermaritzburg - A bid to halt further screenings of Blood Lions, a disturbing documentary film against canned lion hunting, has been launched in the Pietermaritzburg high court.

The case, lodged by Zanchieta Animal Farm CC (a wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary near Bloemfontein) came before Judge Gregory Kruger as an urgent application in chambers yesterday afternoon.

It was adjourned to the opposed court roll on November 27 without any order being granted.

Zanchieta also wants the court to order the producers to remove any images of its lions from the documentary, and all websites and social media sites, including YouTube.

The Hillcrest-based production company, Regulus Vision, and eight trustees of the Wildlands Conservation Trust, the executive producer of the documentary, gave notice of their intention to defend the action “in its entirety”.

Their attorney Peter Whelan disputed that the application was urgent and pointed out in an affidavit that the documentary premiered four months ago, in Durban on July 22. Since then, there had been no fewer than 30 screenings in South Africa alone, he said.

In Australia it was shown to the public and to the Australian Parliament, and this week was viewed by the European Parliament, he said.

It had also been screened at film festivals in the Netherlands and Finland, and a shortened version was shown on DStv’s Discovery Channel.

Zanchieta’s managing member Lizette van Schalkwyk alleges in an affidavit that Blood Lions and its associated trailer and various websites and social media on which it features had created an “incorrect innuendo” that lions at the farm are housed in cages and/or are destined for canned hunting or the lion bone trade.

In fact, she said, the sanctuary is vehemently opposed to these activities.

The sanctuary also denounces the breeding of lions in captivity for commercial purposes, she said.

She alleged that Zanchieta employee Jeana Gous had “categorically” made this clear to the film’s producer, Pippa Hankinson, in an interview.

According to Van Schalkwyk, Hankinson, the documentary’s lead character, Ian Michler, and their team did not reveal their intention to make a documentary, but had said the interview was for “research purposes”. They were taken on a guided tour of the sanctuary (which is also a haven for many other species of wildlife), and had filmed the lions while they were feeding.

Van Schalkwyk alleges Blood Lions does not portray the true version of the circumstances and surroundings in which the lions are kept. These include the fact that the lions are not housed in cages, cannot be released into the wild for various reasons and that the sanctuary is their only home.

Van Schalkwyk says Hankinson used footage of three Zanchieta lions in the documentary despite knowing that the farm is run as a legitimate sanctuary.

She said the continuous screening of the documentary is damaging Zanchieta’s good name and reputation.

Van Schalkwyk says although the sanctuary is not named in the documentary, three of its resident lions — William Wallace, Kalahari and Okavango — feature in it and on associated websites, and are “easily recognisable” to those who know them.

She said the www.bloodlions.org website and a recent article by Noseweek depict William “behind bars”, giving the impression that the lions are kept in cages and destined for canned hunting, which is not true.

Van Schalkwyk said the lions are only fed or receive medical treatment in cages, and are free to go in and out of the cages to adjacent open areas. The lions are well looked after and cannot be released for a variety of reasons, including that William suffers from epilepsy, requiring medication.

She said only two lions were born on the farm, as a result of the failure of contraceptive injections given to a lioness.

According to Van Schalkwyk, Zanchieta relies heavily for income on funding from “volunteers” worldwide who pay for the privilege of working with wildlife. These volunteers are recruited and placed at wildlife sanctuaries by agencies.

Van Schalkwyk had been informed that as a result of Zanchieta being associated with the documentary, agents had removed the sanctuary from their list of destinations for volunteers. This would have severe consequences. She said Zanchieta had collected R336 060 from its volunteers in January this year. For December, no volunteer had been placed at Zanchieta so far, and only one for January 2016.

Van Schalkwyk said Zanchieta was started seven years ago after she came to care for two orphaned caracal cubs, and “fell in love with the wild cats of South Africa”. Both caracals are still on the farm today, she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court

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